The BYU Cougars are a classic “hang around” team. Even if they seemingly can’t get the offense going, and the defense looks just average, they manage to find ways to hang around, and keep games close. They hit on the big plays both offensively and defensively at the exact right times, which was Washington’s major issue in the loss to Cal. I think we’ll see some of the same with RB Ty’Son Williams a really physical and elusive runner combined with Zach Wilson’s play making and athleticism. The Washington linebackers might struggle here.
BYU’s defense likes to drop a lot guys into coverage and has a very experienced secondary. This is a game the Washington offensive line has to take over and make room for Salvon Ahmed. I also think we’re gonna see a lot of Richard Newton too, especially in the red zone, an area Washington still hasn’t figured out offensively. Washington will have to take advantage of the space in the run game, and then hit on play action. Though I worry about our receivers against physical BYU DBs. Hunter Bryant has to be a dude in this one, and hopefully we see some of the young talent at WR if the older guys aren’t cutting it.
Ultimately, BYU is coming off three very tough games - a physical rivalry game, and two emotional overtime wins. Washington is most similar to Utah among those teams, and the Utes won their contest 30-12.
Washington wins, mostly because I can’t handle this Husky team being 2-2.
Washington- 34, BYU- 28
Washington’s first road game takes place in a notoriously challenging place to play. Not only is LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo at elevation, but it is filled with rabid fans and also has (gasp!) a grass field. These things matter and can certainly impact the outcome of a game. That said, I don’t think they’ll ultimately impact the final outcome of this game. Yes, BYU just beat a very talented USC team at home. However, that team had a freshman QB playing in his second game and is poorly coached relative to the Huskies. Washington comes in with an improved offense from last season, albeit, a slightly worse defense. BYU’s offense also looks to be improved under freshman QB Zach Wilson. But, BYU only scored 12 points at home against Utah, whose defense is arguably slightly better than Washington’s this season. I’ll give BYU a slight bump there, along with Wilson having a couple more games under his belt. However, it’s hard to get last year’s 35-7 drubbing out of my mind.
Washington- 34, BYU-17
In a normal year, I would look at a Washington defense that has had problems with run-first opponents as a major problem against BYU. Strangely enough, BYU has leaned on Zach Wilson and the passing offense more than Ty’Son Williams and the run game in wins over Tennessee and USC. The Huskies have a better secondary than either of those teams, so BYU will have to either buck a recent trend or play to UW’s defensive strength. On that side of the ball, BYU is competent and UW’s defense seems less dominant (at least so far) than it has been in recent seasons. Don’t expect UW to come close to holding BYU to single digits.
There are two related variables that I think will decide this game- UW’s receiver play and the red zone execution. If the Husky receivers are taken out of the game by BYU’s defensive backs the same way they were dominated by Cal, the three-headed running monster will not be enough to get into the end zone consistently. If Jacob Eason can continue to use Hunter Bryant, Cade Otton, Puka Nacua, and his running backs in the passing game to complement Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia, this game is certainly winnable. My hope is that Eason has taken real steps forward since the Cal game and the offense will hang well over 30 on the road. My more realistic expectation is that the Dawgs will find enough offense to pull out a tough road win.
Washington- 28, BYU- 23
There’s always a bit of trepidation for the first game away from home each season. Last year it was the disappointing loss to Auburn. In 2017 it was a 16-point win over Rutgers that the Huskies probably should’ve won by 30. And even in the magical year of 2016 it took OT to beat a middling Arizona team in Tucson (2015 was a narrow loss at Boise State and 2014 was squeaking past Hawai’i). There is not exactly a great track record from Chris Petersen taking the team out of Husky stadium for the first time.
This is also the first time that the Huskies will have dropped a game before that road trip. You could either look at that as a clear indication that this team is already worse than some of its predecessors or that it got its first terrible game out of its system. Regardless, BYU will be plenty battle tested coming into this one. USC and Tennessee are not the best versions of themselves by any means but a pair of OT wins over traditional powers shows this BYU team is at least pretty good. I’m not convinced it says anything more.
The Huskies have shown they can eviscerate bad defenses this season but struggled against the one very good one they faced. BYU is closer to the former in my opinion. All 3 opponents so far have run the ball 45+ times at a clip of at least 4.3 yards per carry. This is essentially a worse version of the Husky defense. They’re going to try to flood the passing lanes and will be content to let teams run the ball for first downs between the 20’s while hoping to stiffen up around the goal line or get an interception. Hopefully Washington counters with Cade Otton and Hunter Bryant leading the way for their 3-headed RB monster to consistently move the ball and minimize risk.
Meanwhile this BYU team has been pretty terrible at the beginning of games. They have scored a combined 36 points in the first 3 quarters of each of their first 3 games. However, they’ve scored 38 points in the combined 4th quarter and OTs. Zach Wilson will scramble for a few first downs which will clearly frustrate Husky fans but I’m ok with it if they decide to wait until the 4th quarter to reach desperation mode and start moving the ball. I know I should be more concerned about this game but I like this matchup for the Dawgs provided they don’t consistently settle for field goals in the red zone.
Washington- 24, BYU- 14
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 4, BYU- 0
Against the Spread (-6.5): Washington- 2, BYU- 2
Average Score: Washington- 30.0, BYU- 20.5